It’s not that there’s a greater number of us – still just the three – but at least one of us is growing. Of course, we remember the good old times of cuddling the little lump of person, swaddled and helpless and warm on Winter’s nights. Now he’s five and full of sass and vinegar and takes up half the couch of you let him, and hogs the whole blanket, and tells us it’s because he’s growing because he eats his protein and popsicles. Sure enough.
Yes, he takes up more physical space in the house, but he’s growing his imagination just as fast. This morning he rearranged all the fridge magnets into a sculpture of Sky Tower, sticking to the freezer door. Every day he comes home from school with mile-a-minute tales of his day, and all the characters and personalities in his room. One of them likes to throw sand, it seems. And one always wears a red shirt. And one takes guitar lessons. And our little guy is so big now he dives to the bottom of the pool at swim time and sits there, because he’s not afraid you know.
Well, about a month ago I found some fixed-term work, which is why I’ve been a bit quiet lately. You know how it feels when you know you’ve changed, but you can’t quite say how or put your finger on what’s different? That’s how I’m feeling. Kind of out of place, I guess. Might be it’s this new contrast, now as a go-to-work dad after five years dadding full time, that’s showed me how much I’ve changed and how far I’ve got to go still.
I guess five years back I had competing dreams. Be a dad and a damned good one if I could figure out how to be. At the same time, I was ready to shift into a teaching career. Part time at first, I figured, then transition into full time when the boy started primary school. That didn’t pan out.
The education economy went south in our hometown, so we traveled south in the world and here we are, three years into New Zealand, me back to part time teaching, no longer dadding full time.
One thing I realise, I don’t focus the way I used to. Not that I don’t focus at all; I do it differently. New priorities, revived dreams, new ideas and perspectives and stories. My inability to make sense of it all, it seems, is my ability to perceive my own growth. And when I think about it, it’s no different from my kid.
I come home from work with a mile-a-minute tale of my day, and all the characters and personalities at the office. One of them is a contentious sort, ready to battle with ideas for the good aim of making them better. One of them always dresses in a black shirt, saying it’s just his thing because he’d rather not have what-to-wear bearing on his mind. One sings jazz on Friday nights in a swanky club in the trendy end of town. And I’ve become the kind of guy who can stand in front of 857 students and convey some of all of this story and try like hell to make some sense to a room full of three generations all at once.
None of it’s easy. And if it weren’t for all the growing up my son and I have done, no doubt neither of us could have done what we’re doing.